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Fun Cold and Rainy Day Art Projects for Kids

As I watch the news in the morning, I take [cold] comfort in the weather forecasts of other cities. Sure, it’s cold enough to want to die here in Chicago, but hey, it’s not much better in New York or Kansas City, and it’s always worse in Alaska. Misery loves company, it’s true. I also enjoy fantasizing about living some place warmer. It is a cruel 15 degrees outside in Chicago today, and the wind is blowing so cold and so hard that every resident of the city has to wonder, why not California? Or Florida? Or, while we’re dreaming, Acapulco?

Beach fantasies aside, most of us aren’t going to pack up and move, so we have to come up with coping strategies. This can be extra challenging for parents. Some days, it’s just too cold for your kids to wear themselves out outside. When it’s too cold for your kid to go out and play, take a page out of her teacher’s book and hit up the websites of art and craft suppliers for fun indoor projects!

Crayola offers projects using everything from crayons to clay. This finger-painted greeting card project is my favorite because though it’s designed for kids, the results are more attractive than some of the stuff you see for sale on Etsy! In addition to all the art and craft projects, the Crayola site also features enough free coloring pages to occupy your kids on every winter and rainy day of their childhood!

Pacon also offers projects in a range of mediums. I love their construction paper Mola textile project! The mess is easily taken care of with a broom or vacuum cleaner, and it’s a great way to start a conversation about other cultures!

The Prismacolor site has a lot on offer for older kids. If your teen is a budding artist, she’ll love tips and techniques from professional artists on getting the most from her art pencils and markers. The Prismacolor site also features a gallery guaranteed to inspire!

It’s probably too much to much to hope your kids will put down the TV remote and video game controllers forever. Still art projects offer one more great way of keeping your kids occupied during the long winter months, and fostering your kids creativity is not a bad bonus! Debuts New Site!

I told you it was coming, now here it is! After a long process that ended with a very  long night of link-checking, the new is open and ready for visitors! As promised, the new site is more attractive and easier to navigate — finding all your essential office supplies is a cinch with the new click-able category tabs, improved search engine and toner finder. And you don’t need a degree in interior design or DVR HGTV anymore to furnish your office right either. With the new furniture collections, you can have a stylish, comfortable office, conference room or reception area with just a mouse click.  Most impressive are On Time Supplies’ new community pages. In a section dubbed the “Knowledge Base” are a ton of how-to guides with expert advice on everything from how to choose a laminator to going green.

Another great new feature of the site is the Deal of the Day. On Time Supplies now offers deep discounts on the office supplies you need the most. The selection changes every 24 hours, so check out daily to see what’s on offer.

In spite of the fancy new site, the things you love most about On Time Supplies haven’t changed — great discounts for bulk orders, fast shipping, and of course, a friendly, knowledgeable and easy to reach staff ready to answer any questions!

How to Boost Productivity and Still Have a Life When You Work from Home

Do you work from home? I work from home. In fact, all of us here at Smart Office make this magic happen from the comfort of our own homes, because Web 2.0 is super awesome. Yes, being a stay-at-home worker definitely has its advantages–I am so glad that I don’t have to navigate the Chicago public transit system in the middle winter or get dolled up for the office every day, though it’s rare that I actually work in my pajamas. It’s hard to keep your mind on business when you’re wearing a bath robe.

Keeping your mind on business is the biggest struggle of working from home, and the biggest obstacle to productivity is the blurring of lines between your home life and your work life. Nothing helps squash that problem more then a well laid-out, organized home work space –I say work space instead of office because you really don’t necessarily need a whole room, just enough space to work comfortably. No matter how much space you have, you need your work area to be a professional space to help you stay task oriented. You have to keep your personal life out of your office. The folks over at Suite 101 pulled together a few tips on how to do just that.  I was pleased to see that I am already ahead of the game, having already incorporated one of their suggestions on my own: develop an organization system and stick with it. For example, I find I need visual reminders of important dates and tasks, so I just naturally began jotting notes and reminders to myself down on Post-It notes and slapping them on the wall above my computer monitor. Hey, it’s cheaper than a bulletin board, though it doesn’t look anywhere near as nice. That system probably won’t work for everybody, so Suite 101 offers some other solutions, including labeled bins and wall files.

Though I work from home for an office supply company, I still picked up a few ideas on how to better organize my work area for greater productivity.

Keep a separate set office supplies that no one uses but you, and you only use at work.

As Suite 101 points out, nothing provides a handier excuse to procrastinate than not having the tools and supplies you need right at hand. That’s why you need to equip your home work area just as completely as an on-site work space. Invest in office supply basics such as scissors, pens and pencils, a stapler, paper clips, envelopes and printer paper. Funnily enough, you can get all of that quickly and for a great price at! Ahem. Anyway, once you’ve got them, don’t steal your own office supplies! Don’t loan your pencil to your kid, don’t use your scissors to wrap gifts, don’t use any of your office supplies to complete household tasks. If you can swing it, reserve a printer and other office technology for your own work use, separate from what your family uses.

Clean up the place from time to time.

A messy work area is demoralizing and distracting, so clear away clutter regularly. That’s one reason I love my Post-It note system. After each little memo has done its job I can just toss them. Use your office supplies and personal organization systems–enter phone numbers and email address jotted on scrap paper and envelopes into your address book so you can throw that trash away and file your documents to get them off your desk. Also, remember that there’s no maintenance crew swinging by your office after hours, so go ahead and break out the dust cloth, empty your waste basket and clear away the coffee mug. You will be amazed by how much more focused you’ll feel and how much more work you’ll get done!

Manage your time so you don’t neglect your work or your family.

If you aren’t careful,  you can fall into one of two traps when you work from home–working all the time, or never getting any work done at all. The best way to avoid either pitfall is to set a schedule, and stick to it! While you are working, don’t allow yourself to get sucked into non-emergency family matters. Maintain the integrity you had when you worked at an on-site location–don’t carry out personal conversations on the phone or through email while your are supposed to be working. At the same time, it’s important to preserve your personal and family time. After you’ve put in an honest day’s work stop working! When project deadlines loom over your head and you have to put in extra hours, make your family aware of the situation, schedule time with them after your work life is less hectic, and set aside time for yourself.

Cleaning tips from Eureka that go easy on your wallet and the environment!

Move over, Heloise. Our friends over at Eureka offer some great tips on re-purposing household items into cleansers and dust busters. Who knows how to clean better than a vacuum manufacturer? Every one’s trying to save a few bucks these days, so it’s nice of Eureka to show us how to tackle household tasks without making a trip to the store. Even better, recycle and reuse are the green manta, so if you follow these tips, you’ll be doing your bit to save the planet!

Eureka compiled this list from its customers, so all the tips and tricks have been tested in homes all across America. My favorite comes from Erin of Makanda, IL. “Hot vinegar has been my cleaning secret. It cleans soap scum, windows, extra dirty/soiled laundry, and even our toilet. One thing to be wary of is vinegar that does not say it is made from grain, because it could be made from petroleum products.” Set to Launch New Site!

On Time Supplies is launching a new website! Soon, you can get all your office products from a more attractive, user friendly The new site will feature tabs for the major categories — Office Supplies, Office Furniture, Technology and Janitorial — with links to the most popular products. That way, the supplies you need the most will be just one click away. Plus, On Time Supplies knows that not everyone wants to quit their day job and become an interior designer. That’s why they’ve developed furniture collections and placed them all in on place, so you won’t have to try and get in touch with your inner Martha Stewart to outfit your office attractively and sensibly. The new will also take the guesswork out of toner buying with a new toner finder with enhanced search and click-able icons.

My favorite feature of the new site is the Community page, where you can take advantage of expert advice on choosing, and then using, a range of office products. Trust me, you’ll find out everything you ever wanted to know about office supplies there, from how to select the best printer for your office to why all staples are not created equal. My second favorite feature? The Deals of the Day! You’ll want to check out the new every day. The site will feature one-time only, 24 hour sales on their most popular products–deep discounts on cool stuff.

Of course, not everything will be different at the new You’ll still save money when you order in bulk. You’ll still get your order fast when you take advantage of 1- and 2-day shipping. And you’ll still connect with a real, live human being when you call the toll free number or take advantage of live chat. With the new, you get all that, and an attractive, easy-to-navigate website too!